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CO2 is not the only thing accumulating in our atmosphere,  the levels of many other airborne pollutants including Mercury, Sulfates, Ozone, and Black carbon are rising on a global scale. Here on the west coast we are starting to see that the contaminants in our air are not only a product of our own emissions, but also of those travelling across the pacific from asia.  China, the biggest emerging industrial nation on the planet,also produces more Mercury emissions than the United states, Europe, and India combined.  Mercury is certainly not the only product of the booming Chinese economy, University of Washington professor Dan Jaffe has been studying the drift of contaminants over the pacific from an observatory station at the top of Mt. Bachelor.  The results of his study have shown that when air currents are coming in from Asia that air carries with it many of the toxins they emit.  Jaffe recently coauthored a paper on the effect of Asian ozone in North America, he found that ozone levels are rising at a rate of .5 ppb per year due to drift off of Asia.  While this number is small in itself this .5 ppb is accumulating every year in our air, after ten years the effect will be a rise of 5 ppb.  This is very significant for a toxin that reaches dangerous levels around 80 ppb and will mean that even harsher regulations here at home will need to be made to maintain current levels.  Now I don’t want to seem like I’m throwing China under the bus here, but I thought this was a good illustration of how these matters involve more than just one country.  Global warming is not the only byproduct of industrialization, concentrations of other contaminants are on the rise around the globe as well and are travelling across the globe on wind currents.

We live in a country lucky enough to be free of common diseases killing people in massive quantities.  DDT has been banned in the United States since 1972, but we have been using this same chemical in Sub-Saharan countries to fight mosquitoes spreading malaria. Reading this article really made me think, is there a point where the use of poisonous and deadly chemicals is acceptable to combat other dangers?  Is there a lesser of two evils here, and if there is has our government chosen the correct one in this case?

Malaria is undoubtedly a deadly disease, according to this article it kills 2,000 children a day in Africa.  The issue with using chemicals like DDT to combat it though is that it’s effects not only kill the mosquitoes, but penetrate every aspect of the ecosystems where they are sprayed.  Yet another impact from the employment of DDT in Uganda has been the decimation of the organic farming industry which has now been put on a 15 year hiatus.  The American-owned company Dunavant (would we be reading this article if there was no American money involved?) alone employs 50,000 farmers affected who will receive less than half what they otherwise would for their crops.  In the case of Bosco Acope this meant pulling three of his children out of school.

We know that chemicals like DDT are toxic and dangerous to both people and the environment and it’s sadly ironic how we deem it unsafe here in the U.S. and then go use it in poverty stricken countries like Uganda. Not to say there wasn’t good reason for its use, malaria is a terrible disease, but is there really a point in fixing things by causing new problems?